A new labor agreement between BART and its workers has hit a snag after the Bay Area transit agency acknowledged it mistakenly left what it called a costly provision in the tentative contract.
The provision called for giving workers up to six weeks of paid leave a year for BART workers to deal with family health problems. Currently, BART workers must use their own vacation or sick days to get that time off with pay.
BART officials said they were worried the provision could cost the agency as much as $44 million over four years. BART’s board of directors met late Friday in closed session to order its managers to return to the bargaining table with the unions.
“We are not comfortable with the potential liability that could result from the adoption of this contract provision,” said the president of BART’s board, Tom Radulovich, in a statement.
Union officials said they were stunned by BART’s action. The president of the BART professional chapter of the Service Employees International Union Local 1021, Deslar Patten, said both BART and the unions agreed on the tentative wording on the family leave provision back in July.
“We were very surprised when it came back -- that they were all of a sudden bringing this up,” Patten said.
BART officials said the provision for six weeks of paid family leave was proposed by the union in the spring and had been formally rejected by BART.
But the rejected provision “was put in a stack of tentative agreements that were signed all at one time” in July, said BART spokeswoman Luna Salaver.
“Our management team caught the error before the BART board ratified the contract. So we’re trying to correct it,” Salaver said.
Neither union officials nor BART management said they were eager for a strike to be called before the issue could be resolved. The San Francisco Bay Area was paralyzed twice this year by the strikes. The 104-mile rail system carries 400,000 passengers every weekday.
The tentative contract was reached last month after two BART employees who reported to work during the strike and were inspecting the track were struck and killed by a moving BART train, which was on a maintenance and training run.
“I think all parties are not interested in a strike,” Patten said of the SEIU.
“No one wants a strike,” said Salaver of BART. “We are committed to try to work this out.”
Radulovich, the president of BART’s board, said the agency will investigate why the contract error happened and would take appropriate disciplinary action. He added that BART’s former chief labor negotiator, Tom Hock, is no longer working for the agency, and a new chief negotiator would be named shortly.
The two BART unions have already signed off on the tentative agreement and would have to re-approve new language if the contract were to be revised.